Arizona sued over new voter registration laws that violate rights

Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station in Tempe, Arizona, on Nov. 3, 2020.

Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station in Tempe, Arizona, on Nov. 3, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, sued Arizona over a new law requiring people who use a federal form to register to vote to provide additional proof of citizenship if they want to vote for president or using the state’s popular vote-by-mail system.

Matt York, Associated Press

The Department of Justice has opened a lawsuit against Arizona over a new election law the department says violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Arizona law, which goes into effect in January, requires voters who register using a federal form to provide additional proof of citizenship to vote in presidential elections and all federal elections if voting by mail.

The law was signed in by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on March 30.

In his signing letter, Gov. Ducey said the bill provides a balance between making elections accessible while maintaining election integrity.

In a news release on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division called the proof of citizenship requirement a “textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act.”

Additionally, the law requires elections officials to rejected voter registration forms if there are errors or omissions of information that aren’t related to voter eligibility. According to the Justice Department, this violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the same news release, U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino for the District of Arizona said “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona is dedicated to protecting voters in the state. We are proud to join the Civil Rights Division in bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all eligible citizens in Arizona have the opportunity to register to vote and exercise their fundamental right to participate in our elections.” 

The requirement also violates a 2013 Supreme Court ruling which rejected another Arizona law that attempted to create a similar proof of citizenship requirement to vote in a federal election.

Lawyers for the state’s Legislature said much of the law is unconstitutional but it still passed with only Republican support.

According to the 2013 Court ruling, Arizona can adopt its own eligibility criteria for state elections but must accept federal form registration for federal elections.

This created a class of “federal only voters” who used the federal forms to register to vote and are only eligible to vote in U.S. presidential, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races. There are 31,500 voters registered as “federal only” and would be impacted by the new law.

While supporters of the law say it will only effect voters who haven’t provided proof of citizenship, voting rights advocates say the law is vague and could end up effecting hundreds of thousands of voters.

Carlene Coombs

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